The total UK retail footfall in May was 0.7% lower than a year ago, down from the 1% rise in April, according to the BRC/Springboard Footfall Monitor for May 2013. The report found that footfall in out-of-town locations continued its good performance from April, rising 1.2% in May compared with a year ago – its best performance since November 2012.
It also reported that the high street (-1%) and shopping centre (-1.7%) locations both reported footfall below the UK average. The hardest hit parts of the UK were Northern Ireland (-3.1%), the West Midlands (-2.9%) and the East Midlands (-2.6%).
"Retail parks led the way and this could explain why furniture – most commonly sited out of town – was the month’s best performing category"
BRC director general Helen Dickinson says: “On the surface these figures are fairly flat, but they’re masking widespread regional variations and only two areas in England – Greater London and the East – are showing positive footfall growth compared with May 2012. As the recent unemployment figures highlighted, the outlook in terms of job prospects and economic growth is by no means ‘one size fits all’ across the UK.
“While footfall saw a slight drop compared with May 2012, the month’s respectable sales growth suggests that conversion rates were good – people made fewer trips but responded well to good deals, especially on value ranges and seasonal promotions. Where there was a little growth, retail parks led the way and this could explain why furniture – most commonly sited out of town – was the month’s best performing category according to our Retail Sales Monitor.
“Now that we’re into June, retailers will be hoping that summer sales and sunshine will make for a stronger showing next time.”
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, says: "Footfall across all retail locations over the past few months has definitely been proving to be very volatile, particularly in high streets, which fell by 7% in March, rising by 3.4% in April and declining by 1% in May.
"Shopping centres fared worse in May than in April, with a drop in footfall of 1.7%. At first glance, only out-of-town shopping destinations seem to be bucking the trend, with an increase of 1.2% across the UK.
“Two key trends are emerging in high streets that are affecting their performance. Firstly, footfall in regional cities is increasing whilst it is dropping in smaller towns, indicating that shoppers are increasingly gravitating towards larger destinations. Secondly, footfall outside of retail trading hours is increasing whilst declining over the daytime period. At least in part, this is likely to account for the adverse performance of shopping centres, the majority of which have a very modest leisure offer.
"Town centres benefit from greater diversity than the majority of shopping centres, and the evening economy is clearly protecting and insulating the high street. This reflects the feedback we are receiving from town centre managers who state that by far the strongest demand for units is from food and beverage occupiers who operate outside of retail trading hours."
Greater London (2.6%) and the East (0.2%) were the only two regions in England to report a rise in footfall. The East and West Midlands reported the greatest decline in footfall, falling 2.6% and 2.9% respectively.
Scotland reported footfall significantly above the UK average, up 3% in May. This was better than the decline seen in Wales (-1.1%) and Northern Ireland (-3.1%), both reporting footfall below the UK average.